President Kennedy's NBC Interview, September 9, 1963

Source: The Pentagon Papers, Gravel Edition, Volume 2, pp. 827-828

President Kennedy's NBC Interview, September 9, 1963, Department of State Bulletin, September 30, 1963, p. 499:

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Mr. Huntley: "Mr. President, in respect to our difficulties in South Viet-Nam, could it be that our Government tends occasionally to get locked into a policy or an attitude and then finds it difficult to alter or shift that policy?"

THE PRESIDENT: "Yes, that is true. I think in the case of South VietNam we have been dealing with a Government which is in control, has been in control for 10 years. In addition, we have felt for the last 2 years that the struggle against the Communists was going better. Since June, however--the difficulties with the Buddhists--we have been concerned about a deterioration, particularly in the Saigon area, which hasn't been felt greatly in the outlying areas but may spread. So we are faced with the problem of wanting to protect the area against the Communists. On the other hand, we have to deal with the Government there. That produces a kind of ambivalence in our efforts which exposes us to some criticism. We are using our influence to persuade the Government o there to take those steps which will win back support. That takes some time, and we must be patient, we must persist."

Mr. Huntley: "Are we likely to reduce our aid to South Viet-Nam now?"

THE PRESIDENT: "I don't think we think that would be helpful at this time. If you reduce your aid, it is possible you could have some effect upon the government structure there. On the other hand, you might have a situation which could bring about a collapse. Strongly in our mind is what happened in the case of China at the end of World War II, where China was lost--a weak government became increasingly unable to control events. We don't want that."

Mr. Brinkley: "Mr. President, have you had any reason to doubt this so-called 'domino theory,' that if South Viet-Nam falls, the rest of Southeast Asia will go behind it?"

THE PRESIDENT: "No, I believe it. I believe it. I think that the struggle is close enough. China is so large, looms so high just beyond the frontiers, that if South Viet-Nam went, it would not only give them an improved geographic position for a guerrilla assault on Malaya but would also give the impression that the wave of the future in Southeast Asia was China and the Communists. So I believe it."

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